Oakland Ballet's 'Luna Mexicana' celebrates Latino culture, pays respect to pandemic loss

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The Oakland Ballet Company took its show on the road Wednesday, to a Hayward elementary school with a preview performance of "Luna Mexicana," a dance show designed to celebrate Latino culture, while also recognizing the deep impact the COVID pandemic has had on that community.

"It's about a girl, Luna, who on Dia de los Muertos, she goes to a graveyard and she thinks about her family members and her past," explained lead dancer Jazmine Quezada.

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With an audience of young students reveling in their every move, dancers from the Oakland Ballet Company brought their production of Luna Mexicana to Hayward's Park School.

"Watching them and getting their reactions, their clapping, their applause makes me so happy because I wish I had seen more of it growing up," said Quezada,
The dance is inspired by Dia de los Muertos, but in the age of COVID, it's also meant to raise awareness about the pandemic's deep impact on the Latino community.

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"We've had a tough time, everybody has shared in the last 20 months, a terrible pandemic, the Latino Community especially," said Graham Lustig, the Artistic Director of the Oakland Ballet Company. "It's a time for us to come together as a family, as young people, who are looking back at different generations who have left their love with us and we celebrate them and their lives."

The mix of traditional dance and music with more contemporary elements seemed especially resonant here at Park School, where 60% of the students are Latino.
"So for them to see their culture and language and music represented was just lovely for them and then for the other students to have that exposure to those culture and traditions," said Principal of Park School Lori Oldham.

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There is a layer of sadness to the story, but also a strong message of hope.

"She falls a asleep and she has this dream where they all come to visit her and she gets to celebrate and dance with them again like she did when she was younger," said Quezada, "and it's just very heartfelt, makes me feel very connected to my culture."

The Oakland Ballet will perform Luna Mexicana at the Paramount Theatre this weekend.

For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, click here.

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